As far as the Soulbound Engine goes it just pushes you to do what is is that you like to do based on your affinity to drive you towards one end of the spectrum of light or dark unless you are cognizant of your choices to remain neutral or gray affinity on purpose.
You are the one driving your story based on what you like to do. The consiquences, boons, or reaction the world has in response to those actions is a direct result of all your choices.
The only thing that seems to be finite to your character is the Fate system which again is still a result of your affinity at your birth that is unique to you.
Both engines you can freely choose to participate in the story at any point or you can choose to ignore it's push and pull even though every choice you make is still a result of that choice.
As a Mayor, Count, Duke or whatever package you have will have some degree of responsibility inherant that will directly affect that domain based on how active you are. I have heard that there is a bare minimum that you have to do each day. And just like any civ builder the more you put into keeping citizens happy, healthy, safe, and acting in peoples best interests the better off it will be.
It's your choice if you want to ignore those responsibilities and let that settlement rot by exploring. But, you can also set someone to act in your stead if you do want to go exploring, or you are leading a war from the front lines. It won't be uncommon for a count to travel to neighboring domains within their duchy and you could spend tons of time just exploring a duchy in a lifetime for all the mines, dungeons, and POI's just in your immediate proximity, or going to the kingdom capital to handle business or being summoned by the king directly.
But doing so would be folly to take a count character out exploring rather than just starting another character who you can start an organization through the count or backed by your count character that is funded for exploration or prospecting that wont take huge hits on your count character in terms of stamina as by leaving your county opens you up to being a target as you would need to bring a vanguard with you that gets harder to have players active to protect you.
You also have to keep in mind that you have a daily finite stamina pool before you need to rest. You can push it some but it has consiquences the next day or affects your health. You will also need multiple characters if you plan to play a lot so that you can take full advantage of the game. Especially if you plan to bea count but also explore or run an organization that aids your count or explorer to cut down the costs of exploring by crafting your own supplies.
Organized exploration will be fun but also at the same time most domains will be fairly dense with activity in the true sense of exploration unless you are sailing off to adventure islands if you arent land locked inland. Its still possible but it also opens up you to perma death if your ship goes down. There is risk but there is also a lot of reward in doing so.
I feel like it would have been more interesting if we would have started with a duchy sized kingdom per biome that would have allowed for expansion and nearly unlimited exploration as we rebuilt the world and expanded more naturally, I get why SBS isnt going that route but it would have been fun if there were servers built for that type of ruleset.